In 2018, Rep. Julie von Haefen defeated a powerful Republican incumbent and made Wake County a better place to live. Julie has used her first term in the NCGA to almost exclusively fight for policy changes that will help women and families in North Carolina. She has been quarantining at home with her husband and children while juggling being back in session at the NCGA.
Julie took the time out of her busy day to chat with our Program Manager Devon Roberts.
In what ways do you think you’ve grown or changed as a leader since you’ve been serving in the NCGA?
I consider myself to be an introvert. There are actually a lot of elected officials who are that way. I can be extroverted, but it’s not my first instinct. Running for office has pushed me out of that introvert comfort zone. I’ve had to put myself out there in ways I didn’t before. When I ran for office, I knew I was going to change and I was ready for that push. Now I’m more outspoken in situations I might not have been before.
How are you approaching your campaign now that you’re running for re-election?
In 2018, I was a challenger against an entrenched incumbent and a lot of our messaging was around bringing a new perspective to the district. That’s not the approach I can take now that I’m the incumbent. Now I have the opportunity to talk about what I’ve done. I get to talk about what having a new legislator with a fresh perspective has done for the community. I felt like the person who was in this office before me wasn’t connecting with the community, and I am trying to do differently. I do tons of office hours and I try to be very visible to be as accessible as possible.
What are you working on right now for women and families in North Carolina?
I always go back to the ERA because that will help every woman and family in North Carolina. It will bring equal pay. It will protect people against discrimination and benefit all of us. I hope we can join all of the other states who have ratified it.
What do you think is the most important thing the government can do to help people now and into the future?
We need to expand broadband internet access. There’s so much inequity in our school systems without broadband. The students who don’t have it will fall behind. This is legislation we talked about in the long session but it didn’t get enough support. In this day and age, broadband is like water or electricity. It’s a utility. We’re dependent on it in normal times. Now, during COVID-19, we’re dependent on that connection so we can access school, businesses, and state resources. North Carolina hasn’t put enough investment in broadband. We need to be proactive in the future and not just reactive when there’s a crisis.
What is an idea you had about campaigning or serving in office from before you ran for office that ended up being true or false?
Before I ran, I had never worked on a campaign, so I didn’t have a lot of perceptions about what things on a campaign looked like. My story was different and my decision to run for office came as a surprise and happened very quickly. One of the only things I had to go on was watching the TV show, The Wire, on HBO. On The Wire, the guy who runs for mayor spends hours and hours doing fundraising calls in a very boring and dark cubicle. I asked if I was going to have to make all of these calls like he did and be stuck in a room for hours on end. The caucus told me I wouldn’t have to, but of course, I did. The only difference was I did them in my more comfortable dining room with snacks and my dog, instead of a room with no windows!
What is bringing you joy right now that you’d recommend to bring joy during quarantine?
To bring joy to me is to organize. I’ve been organizing my house like crazy. Things that sat around randomly or piled up on countertops or in drawers are gone now. There are lots of clean surfaces and organized closets and that brings me joy, and a lot less stress!